Without their point guard Russell Westbrook, the series against the tough Grizzlies was always going to be difficult for the Thunder.
After winning Game 1 thanks to some late game heroics from Kevin Durant, the Thunder lost four straight to fall out of the playoffs. In the end, the well-rounded Grizzlies were too much for the short-handed Thunder. Mike Conley played a fantastic series, leading the way from point guard, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were too much down low, and Tony Allen was able to frustrate the Thunder defensively.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a phenomenal regular season in Oklahoma City. But despite the loss, Durant was trying to think positively following the loss. After the game, he had this to say,
“I gave all I have for my team. I left it all out there on the floor. I missed 16 shots, but I kept fighting, kept being aggressive, and that’s all I could ask for. It is what it is. It’s tough to swallow right now, but I’m sure we’re going to look back on this down the line and really appreciate this tough time. It’s something we’ve got to embrace and get better from. It’s tough to lose your last game in the playoffs so you’ve just got to move on.”
“Every one of these games came down to the last few minutes. It’s unfortunate we didn’t come out on the winning side except for once. Like I said, down the line we are going to look back on this and really appreciate it. Sometimes you’ve got to right out some storms to get to sunshine.”
“I have peace because this is when we really had to come together. You really seen us grow as a group. The only way I’d be frustrated is if we came in here with attitude because Russ is out or we missed shots or we lost the game, and nobody did that. We kept our spirits up. We were always positive and that was the best part about it. No matter how you lose, you couldn’t ask for nothing else man.”
“These guys, I love playing with them. Some days you come in and you get upset with each other, that’s just life. But at the end of the day I love all those guys, we all love each other and it was a joy fighting with each other, this playoff run, this whole season. So it wasn’t frustrating. Of course it was a little tougher than usual, but we made the best out of it.”
Durant has become the league’s second best player, and at just 24, is still improving, as scary as that sounds. Westbrook, also 24, will be healthy for next season and ready to lead the offense in his ferocious, full-speed ahead style. And the big man Serge Ibaka; a very good interior defender with room to grow both offensively and defensively is only 23 years old.
As good as the Thunder have been the last few years, they are still incredibly young and have room to grow. They’ve been to two Conference Finals and an NBA Finals and come up short both times, but Westbrook’s injury was the first real adversity the team had faced.
The team will be back again next year to fight for the Western Conference crown, and with a healthy roster, they should once again be favorites to come away with it.